What is the Average Age of Baseball Card Collectors?
October 30, 2013
by William Szczepanek
I was just thinking the other day about a realization I made at the age of twelve that has stuck with me for my entire life. At that time I was quite happy with my overall predicament and felt that it was the best and happiest time of my life. I wished I could remain that age forever. Through good times and tough times I have remembered how I felt and look back at those days with fondness.
It was a time of adventure without worry and responsibility. It was a time of affordable pleasures such as model cars, board games and, of course, baseball cards. I had a handful of close friends and played baseball just about every day during the summertime. I could walk for miles. It was also amazing how far I could go on a bicycle at no cost and even more amazing how far I could get on a Chicago city bus for just a quarter and a transfer.
TV was free and there was no shortage of enjoyable programming, though not necessarily good programming. But, my mind's thoughts will always drift back to baseball cards, an affordable luxury that transported me from my living room floor to major league stadiums around the country. Fantasy ─ the ability to create an image in the mind that makes you feel as if it were actually real. Do kids have the ability to do this anymore? I'm sure they do, but it is probably more rare than in the distant past, due in part to the explicitness of video games, which while expanding the brain in the area of spatial relationships, actually dull the imagination rather than enhance it.
I also began to wonder at what age interest in baseball cards peaked. I'm sure it was different for different kids, but it was in fact limited pretty much to kids and how much imagination they had. Many games were invented for baseball cards and kids played those games with a passion, until other interests, like girls and cars, quite naturally emerged. So in the 1950s and 1960s I would estimate, without much technical analysis that interest in baseball cards may have peaked around the age of twelve or thirteen and then declined rapidly. This was probably true into the mid 1970s.
In the 1980s baseball cards were regarded more as a commodity and kids collected them for their potential future worth. Given this change it was only natural that people with money would get involved. Those with disposable incomes would be one ones with the most interest and the average age of the collector probably then moved into the 25 to 35 age group. Younger kids could really no longer afford cards. Then, like everything else in our helter skelter world... BOOM. Values declined to the point where cards were almost worthless, except for those cards that were produced in the 1950s, 1960s and before that when cards were a by-product of tobacco or chewing gum, though they are now also losing ground fast.
What is the average age of a card collector now? I really can't say myself because I don't see the reason for collecting them anymore. People don't collect stamps and coins like they used to. Cards are akin to old typewriters, which have been replaced by new technology.
Why do people collect things like cars. Is it because they want to seal it in plastic to preserve its value, or drive it to feel what it can make them imagine ─ imagine what it's like to go fast or what it was like to drive many years ago? Certainly they can restore old cars, but that is not allowed with baseball cards. So what is a collector? By definition it is somebody who collects objects: somebody who accumulates objects for their interest, value, or beauty. Do people really see future value in baseball cards of today or are they deluding themselves? According to some recent web articles, the average age of a current day card collector is 37.5 years.
Does the age actually matter? The fact that the age is increasing does matter. See, people don't collect things like they used to. They can get on e-Bay and buy just about anything they want. Collectors are in fact a dying breed and collecting baseball cards will become a dying practice as the grim reaper makes his rounds and eliminates those who found pure fantasy and elation in collecting pictures on pieces of cardboard.